Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Counties battle mosquitoes at foreclosed homes

Cronkite News Service


Cronkite News Service



YUMA – Joey Martinez steps around an overgrown bougainvillaea bush to scoop a cupful of water from a green swimming pool. Several dozen mosquito larvae squirming inside suggest a job well done.

“When I first showed up here two weeks ago, this dipper would have had 10 times as many larvae in there,” said Martinez, a vector control specialist with the Yuma County Department of Public Health.

The light oil Martinez spread over the top of the pool suffocated most of the bugs, while the growth inhibitor he added to the water will ensure that survivors will be too crippled to live long, let alone bite people and potentially spread the West Nile virus.

Micki Bowman called the county after noticing insects coming from this vacant home next door.

A look over the fence showed that the pool had turned black, a problem she blamed on those who foreclosed on the property.

“It just isn’t fair,” she said. “If they’re going to take away somebody’s home, I think they should come and maintain it until they can sell it again.”

Yuma County’s three-person vector control staff is typically busy at this time of year dealing with mosquitoes where they traditionally breed.

But the foreclosure crisis also has officials here and elsewhere scrambling to deal with water in swimming pools, tires, trash cans and other items at vacant homes.

“We never really had as many pools that were turning green,” said Brian O’Green, environmental health manager for the Yuma County Department of Public Health. “With the economy, the numbers have increased dramatically in the last couple years.”

Yuma County is treating three to four green pools a day, continuing an increase that began in the past two years, O’Green said. Before that, his department usually treated about 10 pools in a year.

An increase in Tucson-area mosquito reports is likely linked to green pools, said Patti Woodcock, Pima County Health Department spokeswoman.

“From Jan. 1 to March 31 this year we received 50 complaints, compared with 34 last year for the same time period,” Woodcock said. “That is a 47 percent increase in the number of complaints.”

She said Pima County keeps statistics on total mosquito complaints coming from area residents but does not break out the individual sources of the pests, like pools, washes or other sources of standing water.

“Anecdotally we know there are more green pools, but we don’t know exactly how many there are,” she said.

Foreclosed or abandoned homes are more likely to have pools that breed mosquito larvae, Woodcock said.

Pima County officials can treat pools only with the property owner’s permission, she said.

“If we don’t have that permission we have to work through the bank, title company or whoever has responsibility for the property,” she said.

Pima County uses a product called Mosquito Dunks, which are small brown cakes that release larvae-killing bacteria into the water.

The cakes clear out mosquito larvae but not the green water in the pools, she said.

Pima County has seen no West Nile virus cases this year, Woodcock said.

Maricopa County’s population, pools and foreclosures make it the state’s hot spot for green pools. Officials there have received 600 more complaints than they’d received at this point last year.

Pinal County has seen complaints of green pools increase from a total of 30 a couple years ago to an average of seven per week, said Joe Pyritz, a county public information officer.

West Nile advice

Green pools are just one challenge officials face in controlling mosquito breeding and curbing the spread of the West Nile virus. In addition to reporting green pools, the Arizona Department of Health Services offers these suggestions:

• Eliminate standing water by checking for cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers that can contain water.

• Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters and animal watering pans at least twice a week.

• Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets and move air conditioner drain hoses.

• Report mosquito breeding problems to your local environmental health office.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service